Remember to Learn

As you study for your midterms or write papers, remember to take a step back and ask yourself, “what am I learning from this?”

I’ve been abroad in New Zealand for three and half months now. Our semester is ending, and we are starting final exam period next week. Some people are already starting to freak out about studying, wanting to make sure they can memorize every fact that they might need. The stress caused by exams is absurd and unhealthy.

I’ve always hated exams as an evaluation method. It seems like 90% of the time, all we do is memorize facts, equations, vocabulary, etc. just long enough to write it down on the test, and then forget it all. We don’t keep the knowledge for future use. What good is any of that? Isn’t education supposed to be about learning? It seems all that matters are the grades that go on our transcript.

The grading system abroad has been different, with average percentages being lower. The thing is though, that it's okay! The teachers don’t expect you to master 100%, or even 94%, of the material taught in class. The letter grades are allocated to account for this: a B is 70-74%, B+ 75-79%, A- 80-84%, A 85-89%, and A+ 90-100%.

After getting over the initial shock of grades – I felt I was doing terribly - I was able to relax a bit more and concentrate on learning the material, rather than memorizing it. This wasn’t easy to do either, I’ve always felt like I needed to get the best grades to prove myself – to whom, I have no idea. Being able to shift my perspective has allowed me to focus on the important parts of school, without completely stressing over it. I may never be able to remember the dates of certain historical events, but at least I can understand their significance.

I encourage each of you, to take a little break from studying and memorizing, to appreciate the knowledge that you’re gaining from your classes. College, and education, should be about the journey, and making the most out of any, and all, opportunities.